Financially challenging times are supposed to mean a boom in babies, cook book sales and an increased interest in magical stories. This year hormonal horror, usually featuring vampires, is in, but remember, before Robert Pattinson was a vampire he was Cedric Diggory, co-winner of the Triwizard Tournament with everyone's favourite boy wizard, and it's still Harry Potter and pals who many people are going to be dressing up as this Halloween. Even if for some of us it's only because a school uniform is so easy to come by.
Another thing that's popular in belt tightening times is appreciating travel opportunities closer to home, so it's a good time to explore the idea of Set-Jetting: visiting film locations, or Literary Pilgrimages. So for Potter fans young and old here is the ultimate Tour de Potter: The Pilgrims trail for Hogwarts Hopefuls and fans of the 'Dark Arts' alike - ideal if you're UK based and looking for something to keep the kids happy over the holidays.
When we meet Harry he's living in Privet Drive, which is played by a street called Picket Post Close, Martins Heron, Berkshire. This kind of location pilgrimage is for die-hard fans only: only the outside of the house was used and you can't get in so there's not much to see. It's far more interesting to start your Tour de Potter where Harry starts the more interesting part of his journey, at Platform 9 ¾ Kings Cross Station. The scenes shown in the film were actually shot on Platform 4 but that's probably just because some of the crew were too muggle-born to see Platform 9 ¾. The Kings Cross Station staff have built a little sign to let you know where the entrance to it would be though.
The Hogwarts Express actually takes Harry and co. up to the Scottish Highlands, along the route of the West Highland Railway, and over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, before arriving at Hogsmeade Station, which is played by Goathland Station, North Yorkshire.
If you make it up to the Glenfinnan Viaduct you might also find the lake it crosses familiar – Loch Shiel is used as the Hogwarts Lake, which appears in several films but is most used in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where one of the tasks of the Triwizard Tournament takes place on it.
The great buildings of Hogwarts itself is a composite of a few lovely locations, but the exterior is based on Alnwick Castle - with a few CGI nips and tucks. There are lots of nice shots of the outside of it when the first year students are having their first broomstick flying lesson, and when Harry and Ron crash the flying car into the Whomping tree. Inside Alnwick are several exhibitions with treasures from Pompeii and ancient Greece and Egypt. Durham Castle was used for some of the interiors, including Mrs. McGonagall's office and some of the classroom scenes. Durham is actually now used as a university campus, which may be as close as you're going to get to attending Hogwarts, but it means that the only way you can look inside is on a guided tour.
Oxford's Bodleian Library is also used for Hogwarts interiors: the Divinity School, with its Gothic ceiling decorated with beasts and biblical scenes was used for Hogwarts School Infirmary, and it's open for visitors, and the Hogwarts Library is played by Duke Humfrey's Library within the Bodleian, but this location you can only see on a guided tour. The fantastic geometric changing staircase is in St. Paul's Cathedral, Ludgate Hill, London and Gloucester’s Norman Cathedral was used for some of the hallway scenes, including the one from Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone where he speaks to the ghosts and the paintings.
The grand Hogwarts Dining and Hall Great Hall scenes were filmed at Christ Church College's St. Aldate's . It's open in the mornings and afternoons for a small fee. It may inspire your kids to an Oxford education – it's still in use as the college's dinning hall.
Kings Cross Station isn't the only London landmark in the Potter world – though in the film St. Pancras Station, next door to Kings Cross, is used in its place. Harry takes a trip to the London Zoo, which is where he discovered he could talk to snakes. Not a bad skill really, so don't be too frightened if a python asks you about the football results. Australia House on the Strand was used for Gringott's Bank and the Leadenhall Market plays Diagon Alley and the area around The Leaky Cauldron.